Magnesium: The Overlooked MineralJanuary 2019
By Juan Pablo Bustos, MD
The mineral magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions throughout the body.1
Half the body's magnesium is stored in the bones, where it forms part of the skeletal matrix.
Magnesium helps neurons connect, is vital for normal heart rhythm, and helps regulate blood pressure.2,3
Most Americans do not get enough magnesium from their diet.4-6
This article explains how magnesium can protect against age-related diseases, including reducing stroke risk.
Magnesium Is Critical for Health
Magnesium provides three important benefits:7-10
- Facilitates cellular energy. Magnesium is a critical element in the body's energy production process.7
- Supports DNA synthesis and repair. DNA abnormalities may lead to cancer and other diseases. Magnesium is necessary for DNA synthesis and repair.8,9,11
- Counters inflammation. Low magnesium intake triggers activation and release of pro-inflammatory factors.10 Magnesium combats chronic, low-grade inflammation, which is a contributor to a wide range of age-related diseases.
Scientists are reconsidering the dietary recommendations for magnesium due to evidence showing that current guidelines might not supply an adequate amount of this crucial nutrient.12
Let's take a look at a few of the specific areas of the body protected by magnesium.
Magnesium plays an enormous role in bone health. About half of the total body magnesium is stored in the bones.3,13
Magnesium is necessary for bone remodeling, the process by which old bone is broken down and new bone is formed.13
Blood levels of magnesium have an impact on bone density. A deficiency in dietary magnesium is associated with a decrease in bone mass and an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is a group of substances that cause inflammation and tissue damage, which can lead to osteoporosis.14
Low dietary magnesium levels may lead to decreased secretion of a hormone responsible for bone maintenance.14
Researchers at MIT discovered a special form of magnesium, called magnesium L-threonate that plays a key role in the way neurons connect and communicate with each other.
In a rat study, this special form of magnesium has been found to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which led to improved learning abilities, working memory, and enhanced long- and short-term memory.15
Another study showed that when mice were given magnesium L-threonate in a solution prior to completing a maze test, they performed better than rats that did not receive the solution—a demonstration of improvement in short-term memory and other cognitive functions.16
And in a recent human study, supplementation with 1,500–2,000 mg each day of magnesium L-threonate (depending on body weight) for 12 weeks showed:17
- Improved body magnesium status. After 12 weeks, researchers found significant increases in red blood cell concentration and in urinary excretion of magnesium in the treated group.17 Increased urinary excretion indicates that large amounts of magnesium have been absorbed, while increased levels in red blood cells show high levels of magnesium in the body.
- Improved cognitive abilities. Using a test of visual attention and task switching, researchers saw significant increases in performance speed for executive function and cognitive processing. These benefits appeared as early as week six on some of the tests.17 Most tellingly, the overall composite scores for all tests of the magnesium L-threonate-supplemented group increased significantly compared with baseline scores and with those of placebo recipients at weeks 6 and 12.
- Reduced fluctuation in cognitive ability. Everyone experiences some days during which they aren't as alert or sharp as they'd like to be. Magnesium L-threonate has shown an ability to stabilize cognitive performance.18,19 In the present study, while placebo recipients showed considerable fluctuation in their cognitive scores, those in the magnesium L-threonate group had primarily positive changes.17
- Reversal of clinical measures of brain aging. Brains do not functionally age at the same rate as whole-body chronological age. For example, a 60-year-old person can have a brain age of 70, meaning they are functioning at an "older" level.17 This variance of brain aging is based on measurable performance and physiological parameters.20-23 In a human study, the average functional brain age of subjects receiving magnesium L-threonate supplements decreased from 69.6 years at the start of the study to 60.6 after just six weeks of treatment.17
Magnesium plays several roles in heart health, including:
- Controlling blood pressure,
- Maintaining heart rhythm,
- Reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, and
- Combating metabolic syndrome.
Let's examine each of these key cardiovascular elements.
Blood pressure. Magnesium contributes to the dilation of blood vessels. This helps keep blood pressure under control.24
Heart rhythm. Patients with low levels of magnesium are more susceptible to suffering from arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).25 Research shows that magnesium supplementation corrects low magnesium-related arrhythmias. 26,27
Magnesium supplementation is now routinely used before many kinds of heart surgeries that are known to induce postoperative arrhythmias and is also recommended for people with chronic arrhythmias who have low magnesium levels.28-32
Atherosclerosis. Endothelial dysfunction leads to thickening and stiffening of the arterial walls ("hardening of the arteries," or atherosclerosis).33,34 While arterial stiffening drives up blood pressure, magnesium supplementation lowers blood pressure, which in turn decreases the arterial resistance against which the heart must pump.
This is especially notable in the smaller arteries that provide blood flow to major organs.35 Magnesium supplementation has been demonstrated to improve endothelial function.36
Metabolic syndrome. This group of risk factors includes abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, lipid abnormalities, and high blood pressure. Together, these factors increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.37
Research shows that magnesium has potential as a therapeutic agent for reducing the incidence of metabolic syndrome and its cardiovascular complications. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, oral supplementation with magnesium significantly improved metabolic syndrome risk factors compared to a placebo group.38
Higher magnesium intake has been found to be associated with lower stroke risk. In fact, one study showed that men who were in the top 30% of magnesium intake had a 41% reduction in stroke risk.39
Another study found that men with the highest levels of serum magnesium had lower rates of heart failure compared to men with the lowest serum magnesium.40
Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Magnesium intake is associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes.41
Studies show that type II diabetics have low blood levels of magnesium.42,43 This deficiency decreases sensitivity to insulin and causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium.43 This creates a vicious circle that worsens blood sugar levels and diabetes complications.44
Studies also show that magnesium supplementation can have a beneficial
effect on blood sugar. In one study, subjects consumed a magnesium solution that delivered
637 mg of magnesium. The result was significantly reduced insulin resistance, fasting blood sugar levels, and hemoglobin A1c (a measure of chronic exposure to high sugar).45
A 2015 study evaluated the efficacy of a daily dose of 382 mg of magnesium on 116 individuals aged 30 to 65 with prediabetes and low magnesium, taken for a period of four months.46 At the end of the trial the researchers found an 11.6% reduction in fasting glucose, an 8.8% decrease in post-meal glucose, a 30.5% decrease in insulin resistance scores, and a 26.7% decrease in triglycerides.46
Magnesium plays a vital role in many processes throughout the body. A deficiency of magnesium increases the risk of a host of chronic health problems.
The majority of Americans do not consume adequate levels of this low-cost mineral.
Higher magnesium consumption, via diet or supplementation, has been demonstrated to provide numerous benefits, including improving cognitive function, helping to regulate blood sugar and reducing stroke risk as much as 41%.39
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed October 2, 2018.
- Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, et al. Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions. Nutrients. 2013 07/31; 06/18/received; 07/14/revised; 07/22/accepted;5(8):3022-33.
- Grober U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015 Sep;7(9):8199-226.
- Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/0506/usual_nutrient_intake_vitD_ca_phos_mg_2005-06.pdf. Accessed October 2, 2018.
- Guo W, Nazim H, Liang Z, et al. Magnesium deficiency in plants: An urgent problem. The Crop Journal. 2016 2016/04/01/;4(2):83-91.
- Available at: https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2007/2/report_water/Page-01. Accessed October 2, 2018.
- Chen HY, Cheng FC, Pan HC, et al. Magnesium enhances exercise performance via increasing glucose availability in the blood, muscle, and brain during exercise. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e85486.
- Gao Y, Yang W. Capture of a third Mg(2)(+) is essential for catalyzing DNA synthesis. Science. 2016 Jun 10;352(6291):1334-7.
- Petrovic J, Stanic D, Dmitrasinovic G, et al. Magnesium Supplementation Diminishes Peripheral Blood Lymphocyte DNA Oxidative Damage in Athletes and Sedentary Young Man. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:2019643.
- Nielsen FH. Magnesium deficiency and increased inflammation: current perspectives. J Inflamm Res. 2018;11:25-34.
- Chen Y, Gao T, Wang Y, et al. Investigating the Influence of Magnesium Ions on p53-DNA Binding Using Atomic Force Microscopy. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Jul 21;18(7).
- Costello RB, Elin RJ, Rosanoff A, et al. Perspective: The Case for an Evidence-Based Reference Interval for Serum Magnesium: The Time Has Come. Adv Nutr. 2016 Nov;7(6):977-93.
- Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, et al. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013 Jul 31;5(8):3022-33.
- de Baaij JH, Hoenderop JG, Bindels RJ. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2015 Jan;95(1): 1-46.
- Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77.
- Boanca M, Popa EG, Lupusoru RV, et al. The effects of magnesium nanovesicle formulations on spatial memory performance in mice. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi. 2014 Jul-Sep;118(3):847-53.
- Liu G, Weinger JG, Lu ZL, et al. Efficacy and Safety of MMFS-01, a Synapse Density Enhancer, for Treating Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;49(4):971-90.
- Apostolova LG, Di LJ, Duffy EL, et al. Risk factors for behavioral abnormalities in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;37(5-6):315-26.
- Kaduszkiewicz H, Eisele M, Wiese B, et al. Prognosis of mild cognitive impairment in general practice: results of the German AgeCoDe study. Ann Fam Med. 2014 Mar-Apr;12(2):158-65.
- Cole JH, Leech R, Sharp DJ. Prediction of brain age suggests accelerated atrophy after traumatic brain injury. Ann Neurol. 2015 Apr;77(4):571-81.
- Liem F, Varoquaux G, Kynast J, et al. Predicting brain-age from multimodal imaging data captures cognitive impairment. Neuroimage. 2017 Mar 1;148:179-88.
- Lin L, Jin C, Fu Z, et al. Predicting healthy older adult's brain age based on structural connectivity networks using artificial neural networks. Comput Methods Programs Biomed. 2016 Mar;125:8-17.
- Luders E, Cherbuin N, Gaser C. Estimating brain age using high-resolution pattern recognition: Younger brains in long-term meditation practitioners. Neuroimage. 2016 Jul 1;134:508-13.
- Banjanin N, Belojevic G. Changes of Blood Pressure and Hemodynamic Parameters after Oral Magnesium Supplementation in Patients with Essential Hypertension-An Intervention Study. Nutrients. 2018 May 8;10(5).
- Tangvoraphonkchai K, Davenport A. Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2018 May;25(3):251-60.
- Agus ZS. Hypomagnesemia. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1999 Jul;10(7):1616-22.
- Efstratiadis G, Sarigianni M, Gougourelas I. Hypomagnesemia and cardiovascular system. Hippokratia. 2006 Oct;10(4):147-52.
- Classen HG, Grober U, Kisters K. Drug-induced magnesium deficiency. Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2012 Aug;35(8):274-80.
- Miller S, Crystal E, Garfinkle M, et al. Effects of magnesium on atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery: a meta-analysis. Heart. 2005 May;91(5):618-23.
- Shechter M. Magnesium and cardiovascular system. Magnes Res. 2010 Jun;23(2):60-72.
- Lee HY, Ghimire S, Kim EY. Magnesium supplementation reduces postoperative arrhythmias after cardiopulmonary bypass in pediatrics: a metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials. Pediatr Cardiol. 2013 Aug;34(6):1396-403.
- Orenes-Pinero E, Montoro-Garcia S, Banerjee A, et al. Pre and post-operative treatments for prevention of atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2012 Nov;12(13): 1419-31.
- Cunha AR, Umbelino B, Correia ML, et al. Magnesium and vascular changes in hypertension. Int J Hypertens. 2012;2012:754250.
- Mudau M, Genis A, Lochner A, et al. Endothelial dysfunction: the early predictor of atherosclerosis. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2012 May;23(4):222-31.
- Wu G, Tian H, Han K, et al. Potassium magnesium supplementation for four weeks improves small distal artery compliance and reduces blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2006 Jul;28(5):489-97.
- Darooghegi Mofrad M, Djafarian K, Mozaffari H, et al. Effect of magnesium supplementation on endothelial function: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Atherosclerosis. 2018 Jun;273:98-105.
- He K, Song Y, Belin RJ, et al. Magnesium intake and the metabolic syndrome: epidemiologic evidence to date. J Cardiometab Syndr. 2006 Fall;1(5):351-5.
- Rodriguez-Moran M, Simental-Mendia LE, Gamboa-Gomez CI, et al. Oral Magnesium Supplementation and Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2018 May;25(3):261-6.
- Bain LK, Myint PK, Jennings A, et al. The relationship between dietary magnesium intake, stroke and its major risk factors, blood pressure and cholesterol, in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. Int J Cardiol. 2015 Oct 1;196:108-14.
- Wannamethee SG, Papacosta O, Lennon L, et al. Serum magnesium and risk of incident heart failure in older men: The British Regional Heart Study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2018 Sep;33(9):873-82.
- Guerrero-Romero F, Rodriguez-Moran M. [Oral magnesium supplementation: an adjuvant alternative to facing the worldwide challenge of type 2 diabetes?]. Cir Cir. 2014 May-Jun;82(3):282-9.
- Arpaci D, Tocoglu AG, Ergenc H, et al. Associations of serum Magnesium levels with diabetes mellitus and diabetic complications. Hippokratia. 2015 Apr-Jun;19(2):153-7.
- Barbagallo M, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes. 2015 Aug 25;6(10):1152-7.
- Haenni A, Nilsen I, Johansson HE. Increased circulating magnesium concentrations after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery in patients with type 2 diabetes. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2018 May;14(5):576-82.
- Rodriguez-Moran M, Guerrero-Romero F. Oral magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetic subjects: a randomized double-blind controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2003 Apr;26(4):1147-52.
- Guerrero-Romero F, Simental-Mendia LE, Hernandez-Ronquillo G, et al. Oral magnesium supplementation improves glycaemic status in subjects with prediabetes and hypomagnesaemia: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Diabetes Metab. 2015 Jun;41(3):202-7.